Below is the complete list of breakout Session Titles. Scroll Down for Details.
- Editorial Wishes and Calendar Dreams: Systems of the Proactive and Productive
- 110 degrees in the shade: Using the Heat of Public Controversy to Power the Mission
- Discovering Millennials: Findings from a National Science Media Survey
- Asset Framing: The Other Side of the Story
- How "fake news" and disinformation affect your cause—and how to counter it
- Empower Your Audience By Handing Them The Mic
- Messaging Beyond Jargon: Creating Equity in Social Change Communications
- Prairie Populist: Communicating Solutions and Community Values
- The Multiplier Effect! How Small Investments in Communications Can Make Exponential Impact in Organizations and Communities
- If A Tree Falls In A Forest… : How To Understand Your Audience and Make Sure Stories Never Go Unheard
- Like Old Denim Jeans, Email is Always in Style
- Lessons from the Frontiers of Data Storytelling
- Speaking with One Voice: How 30 Foundations Collaborated on Strategic Communications
- Augmented Reality Keeps Rivers Free-Flowing
- Philanthropy Can’t Save Journalism, but It Could Do More to Help
- How to Create Your Own News Bureau
- Podcasting for Social Change
- Embrace the Green, Not the Wash. How Companies are Communicating on Social Good
- The Race Card Project: What’s YOUR Story?
Editorial Wishes and Calendar Dreams: Systems of the Proactive and Productive
The art and science of communications intersects at the editorial calendar. It's the destination for all your content, but how does it get planned, reviewed and scheduled before sending via multiple platforms? Focus on creating and perfecting a collaborative system, customized for your team. Journey through a year of editorial calendar prototypes. Learn from experiments with Google Sheets, Asana, Slack and Quip. This case study style presentation will offer you first-hand experience paired with multiple tech tool solutions to hit refresh or start from scratch. You'll hear about editorial calendar wins and potholes. You'll rise above the role of communications traffic control for elite editorial calendar status, whether you are a communications team of one or twenty across multiple time zones. You'll leave with the tools and inspiration to manage your calendar proactively and productively.
- Learn from real-life editorial case studies: experiments with Google Sheets, Asana and Quip
- Discuss and share with peers best practices for managing editorial calendars
- Create and/or perfect a collaborative editorial calendar system
110 degrees in the shade: Using the heat of public controversy to power the mission
Foundations and large nonprofits have a historical legacy of staying out of the public spotlight on politically controversial issues. Some of it is rooted in fear of being labeled politically partisan, but more of it may be due to fear of controversy itself. In an era when controversy is the daily norm, social change organizations are being challenged on their willingness to lead in a politically charged environment.
This session will make the case for how well-crafted communications strategies can give social change organizations more security to take on politically charged issues. While carrying some risk, a public stance can be the most effective way for an organization to advance its mission, live up to its values, and protect people it serves. The Pittsburgh Foundation’s vice president of Communications, senior program officer, and director of Public Policy and Advocacy will review three actions taken in an unprecedented year:
- Entering directly into a lawsuit that successfully overturned Pennsylvania’s gerrymandered Congressional voting districts map, a case that already is serving as a model for other states in removing political partisanship from voting district maps;
- Partnering with The Heinz Endowments on an Op-Ed and social media blast-out against a lead editorial in the city’s main newspaper that countenanced racist statements from the president of the United States;
- Hosting a press conference in conjunction with a state legislative hearing to promote restoration of driver’s licenses for ex-offenders.
- Talking points to remove some of the internal fears of public stances on controversial issues, and to position the Communications staff as reliable managers of the action.
- A check list to prepare internal and external stakeholders for high visibility and possible public criticism.
- A group exercise that session attendees can use at their organization to weigh how a public stand affects reputation, values, and mission.
Discovering Millennials: Findings from a National Science Media Survey
Our millennial generation, now the largest in the US, has radically diverged from previous generations in their media consumption practices -- driving the evolution of media, distribution, and communication. To address this disruption, KQED, the NPR and PBS affiliate in San Francisco, has conducted the first-ever national survey to understand millennial interests, motivations, and behaviors as they relate to science communication. Early findings indicate some possible trends -- there is little loyalty to media brands, the lion’s share of their media consumption is on-demand, push notifications are more apt to gain attention than social media, and millennials may be leery of using smart speakers. The study also considers the role curiosity and identity play in informal learning.
The survey was conducted in partnership with NPR, PBS, NOVA, NATURE, Science Friday, Twin Cities PBS, University of North Carolina TV, and Scientific American. Jacobs Media Strategies is overseeing the survey design and study with Dan Kahan from the Cultural Cognition Project and Asheley Landrum of Texas Tech University as project researchers. The project is generously supported by the Templeton Religion Trust and the Templeton World Charity Foundation.
- How Millennials media habits are different and the role curiosity plays in engagement.
- How to identify and communicate with a millennial audience.
- How to create audience profiles and why they are important.
Asset Framing: The Other Side of the Story
In the nonprofit world, we are often tasked with telling the story of the communities we serve. These narratives are what we use to secure funding, gain publicity, and obtain public support. From the boardroom to the newsroom, foundations and nonprofits have historically used tales of deficit and despair to incite action from stakeholders and gain the sympathetic ear of the public -- unaware of the stigmatizing effects.
Asset framing is the shift to narratives that define a people by their aspirations and positive attributes. Words frame our world. The messages you develop can be monumental or detrimental. This session will challenge you to evaluate the stories you tell, explore where they came from, and recognize their influence and impact. Applying knowledge from global authorities on cognition, racial narrative, social innovation, and engagement, you will learn how to asset frame communities to achieve greater success and improve cultural relations. Endorsed by leading institutions such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, New Schools Venture Fund and The Heinz Endowments, Asset Framing is a game-changer in communications for foundations and non-profits.
- Discover the psychological and cultural power of narrative.
- Explore why deficit framing sabotages equity and how to find smarter solutions.
- Learn how to apply asset framing in communications strategies.
How "fake news" and disinformation affect your cause—and how to counter it
As communicators, we all contend with disinformation, whether it's propagated by a foreign government attempting to pollute our politics or by oil companies running a "climate change doesn't exist" disinformation campaign. There are oft-discussed short-term solutions, such as debunking myths and developing counter messages to the disinformation you contend with. But we know that's not enough. Beyond the immediate myth/message battle, what are the long-term solutions to win the war, and what can you do right now to help advance them? In this session, you’ll learn both about the kinds of initiatives foundations are funding to deal with the disinformation/misinformation problem, and about specific tactics you, as a communicator, can use to counter disinformation on your specific topics.
Attendees will learn three basic approaches they can use to counter disinformation:
- Making your audience immune: How to inoculate your audience from disinformation by honing critical information consumption skills.
- Influencing the storytellers: Ways to help journalists tell the story more fairly.
- Filtering out the junk: Approaches to removing or marginalizing disinformation on platforms like Facebook.
Empower Your Audience By Handing Them The Mic
Over the last 30 years, the Burning Man community has evolved in countless ways. The people who are actively engaged and invested in its global culture are often the ones best equipped to talk, write about, and document it. Three decades of changing, user-generated culture have taught us that sometimes the most caring and effective role we can play as communicators is that of facilitators. In this session, we will explore how creating platforms for our audiences to tell their own stories not only empowers individual voices, it also creates a stronger sense of community and helps us stay connected to the trends we may not otherwise know about.
- The importance of listening to and learning from your audiences (as opposed to speaking at them).
- How to create channels for community-inspired content and conversations.
- How giving our audiences room to tell their stories is sometimes more powerful than communicating our messages through traditional, top-down channels.
Messaging beyond jargon: Creating Equity in Social Change Communications
It can be tough to navigate personal biases, avoid jargon, and understand every possible way you might stigmatize someone when trying to communicate with an equity lens. Organizations risk missing an opportunity to connect with the audiences who may be most important to their missions. Jargon is often the culprit that prevents us from authentically saying what we mean.
Creating “equity” is the center of how nonprofits and foundations are attempting to create social change. It takes an equity-centric strategy that extends into every corner of how an organization operates, including how they show up and communicate. Yet, communicating authentically without jargon about oppressions and “isms” that have been created through historical decision making and power struggles is not easy.
How do you find language accurate enough to capture the nuance of this important work while also staying accessible enough to engage lay audiences? How do you create communications opportunities that respectfully acknowledge and overcome personal bias? In this session, you will hear about one foundation’s journey on the road to bringing health in reach for all Coloradans. Learn about how the communications team partnered with a consulting firm, program staff and leadership to develop a brand rooted in the concept of equity. From powerful visual design that symbolizes multiple perspectives to creating powerful, compelling language and messaging that intends to convey equity and inequity without using jargon.
- Learn approaches for how to infuse “equity” into a brand and all institutional communications.
- Learn how to translate jargon into compelling language and bring your organization’s most important work out of the shadows and into the spotlight.
- Learn how to partner with internal stakeholders and leadership to develop an equity-based approach to communications.
Prairie Populist: Communicating Solutions and Community Values
In Montana, four nonprofits have taken a new approach to communicating about public lands, water, and wildlife to bring people together around a common conservation and democracy agenda. Montanans share many values: neighbors and community, hunting and fishing, freedom and fairness. We set out to tap these shared values and give folks something to "be for" that is stronger than a single issue or a reaction to divisive national politics. We realized that the solutions to many of our communications challenges would be local; as local and regional news recedes, we're losing common ground on issues and our goals are swamped by disinformation, polarization and extremism (a theme recently highlighted at the Knight Forum on Media & Democracy). In response, we launched Prairie Populist, a web publication created to give Montanans a chance to share stories and offer commentary about what's happening in our state. We've created a place to ask questions about what our elected officials are doing to defend what matters to us. Our writers are Montanans talking to regular Montanans. Reporting is driven by curiosity and accountability. We showcase voices and issues overlooked by other media. We'd love to share the success and challenges of Prairie Populist.
- Authenticity takes incredible discipline. You need real people as authors. You need the right tone. You need to be diligent to not fall into the “comfort zone” of your community’s (in our case, conservationists’) traditional rhetoric.
- You need to adjust how you measure success. We will share some of the lessons learned about how we are measuring success with an experimental (and much more local-focused) project.
- You will need a mix of “old school” media and “new digital” media to be effective. Rural populations still rely on rural papers for news and many social media tactics aren’t effective with these audiences. We can show how we used a mix of tactics to be effective.
The Multiplier Effect! How Small Investments in Communications Can Make Exponential Impact in Organizations and Communities
As an increasingly diverse Latino population grows and expands to different parts of the country, community organizations are working to identify and respond to their needs. While some of these organizations are in the early stages of learning how to reach out to and be inclusive of Latinos, others are reassessing how they engage with their changing population. Families new to the community or with limited English, may not be aware of available services and in many cases are accessing public assistance programs at lower rates than their peers. To make a difference in the lives of Latino children, nonprofits must reach and engage effectively with Latino communities. However, organizations may not have the funds to build communications collateral or the infrastructure to reach and engage with Latinos, which requires a bilingual and multiprong communication strategy.
This case study tells the story of how three distinct nonprofits increased their outreach and engagement with Latino youth and families with a small communications grant and technical assistance support from The Crimsonbridge Foundation. The study demonstrates that a small communications investment can go a long way to support and enhance the impact of an organization’s work with the Latino community.
- You don’t need large communication investments to make a real difference.
- Strategic investments in outreach and engagement of diverse communities leverages program work and impact.
- Funding for communications can motivate organizations to assess and improve their capacity to serve diverse communities.
If A Tree Falls In A Forest… : How To Understand Your Audience and Make Sure Stories Never Go Unheard
How often have organizations poured money and resources into projects, only to have them land with barely a ripple? If no one engaged with it, did it actually exist? Understanding your audience is paramount to inspiring action in a world where activism is the new normal. Go beyond the basics. Who are these individuals? What keeps them up at night? What are they trying to accomplish by engaging with your work?
In this session, you'll find out how Brooklyn Defender Services, one of the largest public defense providers in the US, partnered up with artists, videographers, and designers and employed user-centered strategies on a low-budget, ambitious project to create a tool that aims to dismantle mass incarceration through community action. Mass incarceration is no walk in the park. By understanding who we were talking to, we were able to identify a unique gap in the activism space and cut through the noise with striking, never-before-heard stories from public defenders and clients. When done right, to know your audience is powerful mindset, a gut reaction that will guide everything that you do. And thankfully, it doesn't require a big budget.
- Real-life example of how user personas led to success in creating a criminal justice activism tool.
- How to infuse a user-centered methodology & mindset to both online & offline communications.
- Three ways (light, medium, & comprehensive) to understand your audience and what motivates them.
Like Old Denim Jeans, Email is Always in Style
Social networks come and go, but like good old denim jeans, email is always in style. It’s still the most popular use of the internet -- 91% of the public uses email, compared to 69% who use social networking platforms. While it’s hard to compete with the speed and flash of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and others, email is still an incredibly powerful communications channel whether you’re an established nonprofit with a longstanding relationship with your audience or a startup trying to build a following. In this session, we’ll discuss such questions as: how can nonprofits effectively manage email communications in relevant and engaging ways? With limited resources, how should nonprofits continue to build relationships via email without losing ground in social media?
- Ideas shared among the panel and attendees about types of communications that are best for email versus social media.
- Strategies for continuing to build and maintain a healthy email list.
- Examples of email successes and failures from the panel.
Lessons from the Frontiers of Data Storytelling
In this interactive session, learn best practices for linking stories and data together to advance the goals of your organization and change the narrative around your issue with policymakers, media, donors, community members and more. We’ll demonstrate a range of data visualization tools, and consider ethical issues related to data presentation and story collection, including racial and social justice and working with vulnerable populations. You’ll participate in a Data Walk, critiquing the formatting, presentation, and content of community data, and learn how to use this technique to engage a variety of audiences. We’ll also share low-cost, easy-to-use data tools. You’ll hear case studies on the impact of data storytelling; discuss best practices; and share your own success stories. You may also win a “Golden Ticket” that entitles you to a free copy of our favorite book on data storytelling. At the end, you’ll understand how to make data and stories work together more effectively to help you meet your communication objectives.
- Learn how to make your data and evaluation presentations more compelling, engaging and comprehensible.
- Participate in a Data Walk and pick up tips for using this tool in your community.
- Interactive exercises will demonstrate how you can unite data and stories.
Speaking with One Voice: How 30 Foundations Collaborated on Strategic Communications
Strategic communication is complex even for a single organization. So how did Chicago’s Partnership for Safe and Peaceful Communities -- a coalition of more than 30 foundations and funders -- align on a vision for strategic communication on a tough topic like gun violence? By letting their shared values guide the process. Join a panel of communicators from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, The Joyce Foundation, Polk Bros. Foundation, and Robert R. McCormick Foundation to explore what it took to reach agreement on a shared narrative that deepens the impact of the Partnership while also deftly navigating varied organizational goals, approaches, and resources.
- Hear about an effective approach to aligning organizations with differing goals on a common approach to strategic communication.
- Learn how and when to leverage external support.
- Pinpoint which challenges to anticipate.
Augmented Reality Keeps Rivers Free-Flowing
Augmented Reality (AR) is changing the game. One year ago, Apple announced that they were embedding AR into their devices, putting this futuristic technology in the hands of the hundreds of millions of iPhone-users around the globe. Unlike Virtual Reality, there’s no need for clunky glasses or extra equipment—almost any iPhone or iPad can take you on a transformative experience.
As we at WWF set out to save the planet’s remain free-flowing rivers, we realized that AR could deliver our message in the most visceral and memorable way. Together with One Big Robot, we created an AR app that lets users experience the value of free-flowing rivers and what happens when they’re destroyed. The user then is part of the solution, freeing the river and finding other pathways for more sustainable development. In today’s digital world, most young people probably have never played with a 3D model, a faithful representation of a fictional but realistic world. This app reproduces the sensation of playing with a classic 3D model while having the interactive, immersive experience that only AR can provide. It also evokes emotions in a way flat screens can’t, because you’re using your body to play, putting it in motion to achieve goals. In this session, we’ll discuss why this app—and others like it—have the power to help us communicate for good.
- AR is a powerful, memorable and accessible tool for communications.
- Social sector organizations are already using AR to change behaviors, fund raise and drive positive impacts.
- Real ideas for what YOU can do with AR.
Philanthropy Can’t Save Journalism, But It Could Do More to Help
The ongoing disruption to the U.S. news media’s ad-supported business model has led to both geographic and topical news deserts in our country that are likely only to grow worse in years to come. Many foundations and philanthropists are helping fill this gap through strategies and projects that will be highlighted in this session. You’ll hear about how two major health foundations have teamed up to help meet health news and information needs in California; a look at how modest media grants can have large impact; the wide range of approaches available (ranging from fellowships, to topic specific sponsorships); and how interested philanthropists might make their first or improve their 100th media grant. There will be ample time for Q&A with funders and journalists on the panel and in the room.
- How and why philanthropy can support journalism and how it can support your other programmatic objectives.
- Strategies for both newcomers and veterans to make effective journalism and media grants.
- Examples of successes and failures from the panel and a discussion of ways to measure each.
How to Create Your Own News Bureau
Tired of trying to place stories in the mainstream media? Create your own content unit, an option that is increasingly affective for nonprofits in a digital age in which the nature of journalism is changing daily.
- Does creating a content unit make sense for your organization?
- What are the basic staffing/budget/infrastructure requirements?
- How can a content unit further the communication or policy goals for your nonprofit?
Podcasting for social change
If the social sector wants to learn how to create content that both engages audiences and creates devoted supporters, we need look no further than the gold standard offered each day by public radio and cutting edge podcasts. Today millions of Americans listen to podcasts. Mobile phones make audio even more attractive for our busy lives. Since audio is far cheaper to record and edit than video or film, new producers are capitalizing on today’s “audio renaissance.” Their engaging shows and stories are providing some of the most important conversations around racial justice happening today. Audiences are hungry for reflections of their own experience in a changing America. At ComNet18, we will discuss what makes audio uniquely suited for telling our stories, challenging injustice, and truly reflecting the experiences of people of color in the United States. We will learn from a range of producers and creators who are pioneering new and exciting ways to use audio. A special guest from a production based in the Bay Area, will discuss how your organization can get started and connect with a passionate audience. We will share practical advice on telling effective stories with sound, including a hands-on exercise in creating stories.
- The nuts and bolts of starting a podcast.
- What makes compelling audio content.
- How storytelling can lead to social change.
Embrace the Green, Not the Wash. How Companies are Communicating on Social Good.
Rebecca Pratt, Senior Director, Stories and Digital Newsroom, Capital One
The number of companies taking actions related to social and environmental issues increases almost weekly. Some companies are making changes to their supply chains so they can reduce their environmental footprint. Others are creating policies to ensure fair treatment of their workers and customers, or are voicing their opinions about contentious social issues on Capitol Hill. And through it all, they are eager to communicate about what they are doing to help build a better world. Given their reach and influence, that's great news. But how do they do so strategically and authentically, without being lumped into the “green washing” bucket? And what can we learn from their approach?
- Best communications practices from the corporate world that can be applied to nonprofits and foundations.
- Insights on what a foundation or nonprofit can expect when collaborating with a corporation on social good issues.
- Insights into how to build internal support for social good-related communication strategies.
The Race Card Project: What’s YOUR Story?
BRIDGEBOX, a tool powered by the Race Card Project, helps kickstart powerful conversations and leave participants with a better sense of each other, and themselves. This workshop explores thoughts on race, gender, American identity, sexual orientation, ethnicity and more for deeper understanding of other people’s lives. Participants will have a chance to read and react to powerful six-word stories from the 200,000+ Race Card Project archive through a carefully designed card “game.” The stories of others help open minds, and hopefully hearts, and spur conversations around issues that often aren’t talked about. Small group conversations will merge into a bigger room discussion. The workshop ends with a chance for participants to share their own six-word memoirs and talk more about the role of race, identity, stereotypes, language and more in social sector communications. Come break down barriers and explore how identities influence individuals and institutions.
1. How individuals across the country view race and identity.
2. What some of the hidden narratives around race and identity are.
3. How to better understand and communicate around some of these sensitive issues in your work.